Monday, July 11, 2011

9 July 2011: Seattle Storm 99 - LA Sparks 80

This was a fun game to watch as a Storm fan. And since I brought several guests to the game, I appreciated it even more. ;)

Somewhere in the 4th quarter as we were blowing the game wide open, after eking our way to a tough 10-point lead at the end of the 3rd, I thought it felt like for the first time this season that we were finding our new 2011 Seattle Storm identity for the first time.

For one thing, as of last night we’d played (and lost) enough games to basically get the taste of 2010 out of our mouths, because let’s face it: no matter how much we logically know it’s a new season, it takes experiences like losing (including losing at our Key Arena fortress of a home), to emotionally understand that this is a new season, or to feel it in your bones.

But similarly, we’d experienced enough success to realize that there’s still great potential for this team. It’s one of the reasons I was feeling pretty good as a fan at the end of our recent 1-2 road trip. We played some tough teams, in some arenas where we have trouble ever winning (Connecticut, where we competed, and Indiana where we didn’t as well, perhaps due to mental and physical fatigue at the end of our road trip). We also won the game we should have won in DC, and looked fantastic doing it. It was a good combination of performance to build from, and I was eager going into the Sparks game to see where we were at against a Western Conference opponent against whom we will be battling for a play-off spot this season, and also returning home.

To start off with, one of my guests was a cute 5-year old attending his first Storm game. You’ve gotta start them young! Those who know me may have wondered why I was sitting on the Storm bench pre-game with several young people, but I was there legitimately, and I was only accompanying one of the children…basically just to show him back to his seat afterwards, since he was insistent that he didn’t need an adult with him! :D It was an interesting perspective watching shoot-around from down there, though mostly I could only see the Sparks, of course. :-/ They hustled us through the tunnels under the stands, though "authorized personnel only" areas. 8-) Lisa Brummel saluted the Jr. Captain…I think I was more entertained by that than he was, since he was completely focused on getting to where we were going and had no idea who she was. But it was fun…until poor Lauren came hobbling out with two hand crutches. :( I agree with descriptions by other Storm fans that it was like a puppy in a cage. She was in good spirits when she came out to the bench, though. And would get up and crutch herself over to the team huddle during the game, though their was a sort of forlorn "outside looking in" flavor to it. She was right in the middle of the huddle post-game, though, so I felt a bit better about that. Meanwhile, I practically ran into Jenny Boucek as well! So it was fun. And my young guest enjoyed himself also. Win-win.

Having my normal pre-game routine disrupted, I did a double-take when Ebony Hoffman and DMJ went to center court as LA’s captains. I actually made a note of the fact that Tina Thompson is either clearly further in Gillom’s doghouse than I’d thought, or is just becoming further than further disconnected from the Sparks team. :-/ Sad to see it happen to a Legend. Despite that tip off, it was also weird to have LA’s starting line-up consist of Quinn, Toliver, DMJ, Hoffman and Lavender. Only Candace Parker was listed as injured in the pre-game Viriginia Mason Team Medicine Report, so I didn’t think it could be due to injury. I had to conclude that it was some new motivation technique or weird substitution pattern dreamt up by Gillom. Or gamesmanship.

The Sparks
Noelle Quinn despite having burned us in the past, was didn’t make an impression on me this game. Toliver was decent. She had a bunch of turnovers, but she also hit some crazy 3-pointers with Tanisha’s hand right in her face. I can’t remember her defense particularly bugging Sue, but then Sue is pretty much burning everyone lately. 8-) Every time I see DMJ lately, I marvel at the way she seems to defy the ticking of the clock. Sure, she was up to her old ridiculous tricks that incensed the crowd of Storm fans as much as ever, hooking elbows, and taking a dive like she was Greg Louganis, usually out of bounds. ::) Sigh. I wish she didn’t pull those stupid non-basketball antics so much. I swear on one of those she tried to hook and move Willingham with her elbow, but knocked herself off balance instead. ;D Sadly, with Cameron Inouye, Tom Mauer and Clarke Stevens as our distinguished and talented officiating crew ;) the predictable result was that they bit on it every time (an amusing side note: when talking to my various rookies salted around Key Arena, they all said that the fans around them had remarked upon these refs by name prior to the game…the fact that the fans knew their names and predilections surprised my guests, and I was proud of my fellow fans 8-)).

I don’t remember much about Hoffman. I know she played some defense. Lavender was the one really bright spot for the Sparks, which is probably the best result one could expect from Gillom’s crazy stunt. Not too surprising that she would, given the size of the Storm front line (or should I say undersize?), but once Ashley Robinson checked in Lavender didn’t find things going so easily for her, and was clearly bothered by our long-armed, blue-haired Arob.

Tina Thompson and Ticha Pinichiero rather shockingly came in off the bench. Whatever the result Gillom expected, I’m not sure it was Tina looking absolutely terrible in her limited minutes (airballs, turnovers). Ticha seemed to weather the storm the best of the three of them, since as I type this on Sunday night, the news has come out that Gillom was fired and replaced by past Sparks coach, and her assistant at the time, Jellybean Bryant. I honestly thought it was only a matter of time for her, anyway. She always seemed to be good at motivation and caring (to a degree…though her vets might tell a different story), but weak on Xs and Os. Ticha was really being offensively aggressive out there, taking and making shots. Of course, on her first three I turned to my other rookie-fan companion (I had 3 rookies with me tonight!) and said that if the Sparks were banking on winning on Ticha’s outside shooting, the Storm would give them that all night. You know it’s true. :D

I think Lacy brought some energy off the bench. She didn’t always make wise decisions (or keep her eye on the shot clock), but she was active on defense and put a couple of shots up to go with a couple of steals.

The Storm
The Storm stuck with their normal no-LJ starting line-up (normal lately, that is) of Le’Coe Willingham and Camille Little in the post. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to have A-rob start, and keep Coco coming off the bench. I know in the past A-rob has flourished in those situations. However, she also seems to have developed a knack for coming in off the bench with some instant energy this year, particularly defensively. And we need that, and no foul trouble, so I’m not going to question Coach Agler.

Besides Le’Coe in for LJ, the rest of the starting line-up consisted of Swin Cash, Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright. Swin and Sue performed as brilliantly as they have lately. One of my favorite things this season—the past couple of seasons, actually—has been to watch Sue work to run this team. She was dropping some shiny dimes tonight, and her shot does not seem to have deserted her.

It’s helpful that she has Swin out there as her wingman (meant in the most gender neutral way ;)). I don’t know how Swin does it, but she’s been eating up opposing defenses lately. Of course, the Mystics and the Sparks aren’t really known for their post defense lately, but that doesn’t negate the amount of effort Swin is putting in on the court. She’s been one of the Storm players most consistently willing to mix it up and draw the foul, and she’s really perfected the up fake that’s either a prelude to a jump shot, or a drive to the basket, often with the bonus of a foul. 8-)

Camille had a tough night with the refs, so we only got to marvel at her arsenal of post moves a couple of times, but good things usually happened when she touched the ball. And streaky Tanisha had another good night. I hope she builds confidence with this win. She needs to be driving to the basket and drawing fouls and opening up lanes like she was. When I say "find our identity" as a team, I think that Tanisha’s play is one of the best indicators of whether that has occurred. If she has a good game, usually we’ll win. If she doesn’t, it’s a crap shoot. She seemed really comfortable out there. The porous defense of the Sparks no doubt helped, and the Mystics coming up will hopefully build on that, but you have to take what you can get to build confidence, you know?

One of the most exciting developments of the night, helping us blow the doors off the game late (it was not as close as the score shows…and that’s a hefty margin of victory, particularly against a Conference rival) is Katie Smith finding her shot. I know that some fans have been down on the trade that ultimately sent Erin Phillips to Indiana, and netted us Katie from DC, particularly after Phillips played with such energy and gave us fits in Indiana, but she’s continually contributed on the defensive end. And while her shots weren’t falling, she wasn’t taking ill-advised shots for the most part. You always felt like it was only a matter of time. On the broadcast Adia talks about how tightly you start playing as a shooter when you keep just missing, and also how a foot or leg injury can throw your balance, and thus your shot off. But Katie has been working hard all season, really competing, so when Sue passes up her own 3 to pass to an open Katie on the wing…for another brick…I try not to wince, because this should pay dividends down the line, right? Against LA it finally did.

It’s all another sign of us finding an identity, I think. Shooting a decent percentage from the floor, and particularly the perimeter we can see what this team can be. It fills me with more confidence as a fan, and I’m sure it helps the players as well. Now if we can only do this consistently, and also against higher quality opponents. We’ve beaten both the Lynx and the Mercury this season…we only have yet to face the streaking Silver Stars. I’d like to see us build on this success, and execute against a good opponent, but baby steps.

First Quarter
We started the game off right with a Tanisha steal on the Sparks opening possession (they won possession on the tip) for a quick lay-in to sit us down. Ah, it’s nice to sit down quickly at the beginning of games. ;) Our half-court offense looked a little shaky early, but our defense was holding the line fairly well, particularly when it allowed us to tip balls and get out in transition. With Sue on the floor our fast breaks are usually like butter, and tonight was no exception. Swin was also really working hard early, battling for rebounds, hitting some quickly shots, and getting tied up with Hoffman for a jump ball. Of course, LA controlled the jump, because Swin completely miss-timed it, but no one’s perfect. ;)

LA still managed to squirt out to a little bit of an early lead, though, off some Storm misses, and a lot of Lavender offense, and some Toliver shots. Halfway through the quarter there were less than 20 points total on the board between the teams, and it seemed like it may remain a fairly low-scoring contest, with the Storm having to work hard for all their points, due to still missing shots, but a fairly robust defense. Even Sue got a block, which she controlled herself, to the special delight of the bench, highlighted by Katie Smith laughing out loud and slapping the floor with both hands in celebration (and probably not a little disbelief).

The highlights of the quarter were probably a couple sweet Sue passes, one to Swin in the paint when it seemed Sue was trapped and would have a hard time passing out of it, and another to Tanisha on the break when it seemed to everyone that she was probably going to pass to Swin, who had run down and immediately posted up hard, except that Swin and Tanisha basically forked, so Sue looked at Swin, then passed to T as she flashed to the basket: easy basket. There was also a good pass to Le’Coe in the paint. I think our post players are getting into a better rhythm as our primary offensive weapons. Also, I really enjoy the line-up with Swin is playing the 4. Of course we’re crazy short, but we’re also very agile and mobile. You know, you’ve got to be creative.

Sue sat briefly, but our offense stuttered a bit, and Agler quickly put her back in, and she quickly produced some additional offense, making a fist in triumph as she drew the &1. Oh, and I can’t forget Katie Smith’s long ball up the floor to lead Sue Bird to the basket! Katie was still very frustrated offensively herself, though, and it showed in her jawing at the refs. I thought for sure she’d get a technical called on her after she complained so long and hard and vociferously that Sue was running a 4 on 5 offense at one point, and then she continued out of a time out! ::) Oh, well. Snell came in and had a pretty looking stride down the lane for a lay-in as well. We’re definitely getting there. 1Q: 18-21, Sparks

Second Quarter
The Sparks went to the free throw line quite a bit more than the Storm in the first quarter, partially courtesy of a 4-1 foul discrepancy (I made sure to point it out to the officials, don’t worry ;)). But it’s been a problem for a couple of our losses this season, so we were clearly coached during the break to stop being so passive this way and we started attacking the basket a little more early. When Katie Smith went to the line for a couple of free throws, I wondered whether that would help her get her touch back (hoping that it would). I also marveled at some of the crap fouls Swin would draw from other players, using veteran trickery. It’s nice to have a player who can do that, rather than only being victims of that. ;)

Thompson traveled, and the game production folks played "Walk Like a Man", which got a chuckle out of me. Ticha hit her 3. But then Coco actually made one of her long shots! I was a little frustrated over the road trip at how many bricks she was tossing up, but I’ve also been aware of the fact that her random outside shots were a useful weapon last season. And coming from Phoenix, she has been conditioned to shoot when open…anyway, she tied the game up at 28. 8-)

The refs went to work as well, though, forcing Camille to sit with foul trouble, and calling some other questionable stuff, like one on T when I thought it was clear that Tina Thompson had lifted her pivot foot and should have been called for the travel instead. Tanisha got her own back by hitting two 3s in a row, though, getting the crowd to our feet. Two 3s from the same spot. Thank you sir, may I have another! Though I have to admit that I was a touch worried that we were settling for outside shots, particularly given our recent history: we can always go cold. :-/ ;)

They did Sue Bird Racing again during a game break (see details in Run-off below), and afterwards I thought it was rather appropriate that the song "Runaround Sue" was played in the arena. :D

Katie finally hit a shot from the floor off an offensive rebound, and threw her arms up in…relief? Frustration that it doesn’t go in more often? I don’t mind the emotion, though. :) We had some turnovers, one at the end that allowed the Sparks to carry a lead into the locker room. The Storm players seemed to be looking to the refs a lot, questioning calls. Was Coach Agler disappointed, or excited that he would have something to harp on in the locker room? The first half was kind of exhausting as a fan because it was so close the whole way. It felt like a prize fight, or something, with punch and counterpunch. And sadly those late mistakes put us down going into the half. :( Our stats were very even with the Sparks. Like nearly identical. It was probably only free throws that put them up a bit over us. 2Q: 38-39, Sparks

The Rainbow City Band performed at half time, but first Blue Nile has been sponsoring a contest where one fan wins a personalized Championship ring, which is pretty cool. They posted the videos of the two finalists up on the website, but they also showed them on the Arenavision, and invited people to vote for either Ashley or Robyn through texts.

Third Quarter
Same starters for both teams going into the 2nd half (not surprising for the Storm). The Storm group was having some sort of chuckle with Cameron Inouye before the quarter started. Camille sat us down fairly quickly with a free throw. She only hit one of two, but we got the rebound, and Sue ended up with a sweet little jumper. Nice to see that stick around. Camille picked up her 4th on an Academy Award-winning performance by Ebony Hoffman. ::) Clarke always picks on someone in our front line. >:( Then DMJ jumped out of bounds and got Stevens to call an offensive foul on Le’Coe. It’s not good, but LA quickly picked up a couple of pretty crappy fouls as well, however. Or it was karma. ;) How about we just call good fouls, refs? Though they typically seem to tighten up at half time this season, so at least they’re consistent that way.

We were doing a good job generally of denying them the ball in the post, though their players were pretty consistently scoring if they got it in position, which happened plenty, keeping the game even, more or less. Similarly Swin was exploiting mismatches herself on the offensive end, though, going to town in the paint, probably at least partially in response to how tightly the refs were calling it. Not a bad strategy, however improbable some of her shots looked. ;) And we just kept grinding away. Instead of being down by 3-5 points, suddenly we were up by 3-5. We'd edge up a little more, up 5 ro 9, but the Sparks doggedly kept competing, repeatedly shrinking the lead back to 5 points or so. We could never get over that mental double-digit lead hump and it was very energy intensive as a fan waiting for that golden moment.

So with the Sparks hanging around and we never seemed able to open up a more robust lead until finally a couple LA turnovers allowed us to open it up a little, including two fabulous passes to Swin on the break, first by Sue as Swin set a screen then rolled to the basket, while Sue faked a shot, then the same type of roll to the basket netted Katie Smith a sweet assist to Swin. The refs tried to dampen our spirits by calling some more touch fouls, one on Tanisha when DMJ came all flailing back into T after losing her balance. Katie Smith was hilariously acting that flail out for the refs. ;D Sue was laughing, anyway.

While Swin was beasting it up, another Katie Smith 3 rolled all.the.way.around the rim and out. :( It would have been a back-breaker too, finally getting us over that hump, I believe. And on top of that, I just wondered if we’d ever see her shot return? As a fan I kept hoping, but it's hard when your players are discouraged. She was taking the proper shots, in rhythm, just when she should be shooting. Sigh. Fortunately, Sue had us all feeling good going into the quarter break extending a 7 point lead to 10 with a 3 near the buzzer (using an excellent screen by Arob), giving us all the momentum in the world, the first time either side went up by double-digits! 8-) There’s just something mental about leading by 10 points or more, and the team got a standing ovation as they returned to the bench for a much-earned break. 3Q: 70-60, Storm

Fourth Quarter
Lots of action to start the 4th. With momentum going our way, the Storm made the move to bust the game wide open at long last. Ashley opened up the festivities by missing a crazy lay-in off a spin move, but then tipped in her own miss! (stat padder :P) Tanisha was fouled driving to the basket and did and absolute superman belly flop on the end line. Ouch! She got up and made the free throws, though. Then Swin found her range from long, getting us to our feet with a 3, but the fans went nuts when Katie Smith finally, finally hit a 3 herself! Everyone’s hands went up in the air (including Katie’s) and LA was forced to call a timeout as the lead had suddenly exploded to 82-66! :)

Didn’t stop our momentum, though. I have no idea what Gillom told her troops, but after that timeout we didn't lose a step. And they didn't gain one, either. We forced shot clock violations, our defense was smothering, and we just really kept working, working so hard and taking whatever their defense was giving us, which was suddenly quite a bit. ;) Tanisha picked up her 5th foul, and had to sit down, with Ashley checking out at the same time, and a very appreciative crowd applauded her efforts (and Tanisha’s) enthusiastically. Smelling blood and feeling confident after a couple made field goals, Katie took and hit a 2nd 3! The crowd went crazy again!! Is Katie back? (oh please, oh please). But then Camille picked up her 5th and had to sit. :( Is that the price of Katie hitting shots: fouls on us? Camille got supportive applause, but what was even more exciting was that up by around 20, Kobryn checked in! She's big, and looks strong. Though she didn't really get a chance to successfully execute anything, she was in the right spots on the floor on plays, which is a big first step. :)

Everything started going in at this point for us, and LA just looked hapless. Helpless to stem our tide. We built like a 30-point lead. Plus, as our offense picked up energy, so did our defense. Though when Agler started clearing the bench, our offense started to look ragged as a result. With 4 minutes left and over 90 points on the board, the fans around me started chanting "100 points!" Sadly, with a bunch of ticky-tack fouls and some traveling in garbage time, and a discombobulated Deep Bench offense, it was not to be. :( With 99 points we dribbled out the final 13 seconds as "Another One Bites the Dust" began playing. 8-) But if we can build on this confidence game (and it doesn’t end up being all flash built on a hitting-bottom LA team and no substance), we could have another very successful season.

Swin was deservedly the Microsoft Player of the Game. She referenced how they were embarrassed in LA and really wanted this win tonight, apart from just wanting to defend our home court. Stepping up by committee is how we’re going to win games. And that’s what they had tonight: 4 players had their season highs: Swin, Katie Smith, Le’Coe and Tanisha.

After the Player of the Game interviews this year, they’ve been playing the 3 Dog Night "Joy to the World" as we exit the arena. :) It’s a fun little uplifting touch, to reinforce our positive feelings.

·         The pre-game Community Spotlight was for the foundation to raise money to fight pediatric cancer called Brandon’s Goal. Brandon was a big Storm fan who passed away at the age of 11 last year from cancer; his goal was to beat cancer. My other guests purchased tickets through Brandon’s Goal and had a wonderful time as well.
·         The anthem was sung by Camille Bloom, who had an amazing set of lungs as she belted it out in a nicely straightforward manner. It was nice to be across the arena from the flag this time so that I didn’t need to crane my neck to see it. ;)
·         Another pre-game activity honored the United Methodist Church, with whom the Storm organization has teamed up in the Nothing But Nets charitable pursuit to provide mosquito netting to impoverished countries.
·         An exciting thing pre-game that I didn’t expect was Sue and Swin being presented with World Championship rings designed by Tiffany & Co. for winning the WC with the US National Team. 8-) More bling for their ever-growing collection. :)
·         There were only like 6 members of the Storm Dance Troupe performing all night. Where’d the rest go? :( I figure vacations or something, but the rest were missed.
·         There’s a PCC Healthy Kids Campaign going on this year, where they show PSAs during the game for healthy eating choices, often feature the Dance Troupe. They even tossed Healthy Kids t-shirts to the crowd between quarters.
·         Sue Bird Racing made its 2nd appearance. I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t get to see a new mini-game, but SBR is a fun one, so I didn’t really stress it. We didn’t get the whole video with the players showing us how it works, just the fan contestants. I did finally figure out that the contestants’ legs are in the big bird puppets and the legs on the outside are stuffed, though. :D The chicken won again, but I think the duck might have won if its head hadn’t gotten caught in the ostrich’s reins. :o The humanity! The duck’s head was hanging by a thread as the contestant tried to get free! I hope no children were traumatized. ;)
·         Army Parachute drop of t-shirts occurred in the 3rd quarter again. Does this happen every game? One of the parachutes got stuck up on the edge of the 2nd level, though.
·         What song is the Swin Cash "mo money" sound effect sampled from?
·         Robyn won the Blue Nile Championship Ring. Seems like the fans mostly voted for her humorous tone over Ashley’s more earnest tone. But it was sweet how teary Robyn, of the famous "Even Chuck Norris is Afraid of Lauren Jackson" sign, got when presented with her ring. I thought they announced in the arena that over 2000 votes were counted, but Dick Fain announced over 5000. 8-) A fun contest, and two great entries. Sorry you didn’t win, Ashley.
·         The KONG broadcasts are fun because during some of the commercial breaks they show Storm videos.
·         Kudos to the group of fans seated on the West side spelling out CAMILLE and TANISHA in big, separate, poster-sized letters. Well done.
·         Catchings passed Pinichiero on the All Time Steals list in her game prior to ours. Hard night for Ticha, what with being benched and losing a record, though I’m sure she cares more about being benched.
·         Adia brought up a good point in the broadcast: why don’t we chant for another teams besides LA? I know that I only started with "Beat LA" because they prompted me to. It’s nice to have a 3-beat chant. I don’t see why it couldn’t be adapted. Would it lose its cool factor if we also did "Beat the Lynx/Dream/Stars/Sun/Sky" or "Beat DC/Tulsa/New York/Phoenix"? (I can’t really make it work with the Fever). I mean, they (LA) haven’t been really good for lots of seasons, and though the Storm have a special relationship/rivalry with the Sparks, pretty much every team does "Beat LA". Should Storm fans be more creative?
·         I'm not sure, but I believe that Katie Smith leap-frogged back over LJ for 3rd on the all-time WNBA scoring list, with this game.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

24 Jun 2011: Seattle Storm 65 - Minnesota Lynx 55

Ever since the last game where the Lynx embarrassed us in our own house through 2-3 quarters, many Storm fans have had their eyes on this game with words like "revenge" and "redemption" in mind. I don't know about my readers, but I was fairly confident coming in that the Storm would win this game. With a healthy Lauren Jackson we are a great team, but without Lauren Jackson we're still a very good basketball team. Perhaps people have heard of All-Stars Swin Cash and Sue Bird? ;)

Anyway, I was mostly worried about how we would fare on defense without Lauren's size and quickness. Going into the game she was listed as "day to day", but I think it's been clear that she's been dealing with some sort of issue for a while. During this time, I loved watching the fan interaction with our ailing superstar. You could just feel the potential energy gather in Key Arena every time Lauren got the ball, almost like people were moving to the edges of their seats waiting for something positive to happen for her. Every shot, every steal, every rebound and the crowd would go crazy, thinking this would be the play that got her going. With the news running around pre-game that she'd be out for 3 weeks minimum with a hip injury, it seems we'll have to wait longer for that. But the Storm has a history of rallying in her absence in the regular season. So it will be interesting to see how things go.

It was Lauren Jackson MVP bobblehead night, so the crowds were lining up early to enter Key Arena. There were some scattered sprinkles of rain, but nothing to dampen the spirits of veteran Storm fans. They've instituted some more controlled circumstances than in the past (make a note, I haven't done a bobblehead give-away night in person for 3 years). They put up ropes to funnel the lines down to a single one on each side of the entrance. They also instituted a policy where they hole-punched your tickets! :o Oh, no. I mean, I get it, so I didn't argue. They don't want people getting into line multiple times. It makes sense, so I actually appreciate it. But some of us keep the books of tickets fairly pristine, whether for scrap-booking or because we're hoarders. There could be many reasons. The ticket-punchers were very reasonable, though. They punched where I wanted them to, and didn't even really punch the hole out, just pressed hard enough to make a mark. 8-) There were some arguments in line when other, newly-arriving fans tried to crowd to the front rather than go to the end of the line. Such is the passion of Storm fans. ;)

It was a good crowd on hand. We usually get much better attendance on the weekends, and it's really a minority of fans who show up just for their bobbleheads, then leave, and people love their BHs, so I think there were extra fans due to that, too. There were also multiple gay-pride groups in attendance. It was Go Green night, rather than Pride night, so there were no real thematic elements to that, but the in-arena announcer highlighted them a couple of times, and wished us all Happy Pride, and they show signs at some point during each game, and the over-sized Seattle Storm Pride sign got a lot of applause, though the "President Obama, the Storm will see you now" sign "won". I also really liked the "Revenge is a dish best served at the Key" sign. There were some good ones. 8-)

Our refs were Kurt Walker, Cameron Inouye and Maj Forsberg. It always frightens me when I look at a group of refs and think: is Kurt Walker the best of the bunch? I also heard some odd news after the game...that Cameron Inouye is married to Michael Price Bryan Enterline (who I meant in the first place...apologies to the happy couple). Some interesting conversations to be had at that dinner table.

Pre-game the rumor was flying around that LJ was diagnosed with a labral tear in her left hip. Better than stress fractures recurring in her back, in my opinion, but still not good. :( Then during the VA Mason Team Report the announcer said it was a back injury. Mass confusion. Since cleared up. Indeed we're looking at a hip labral tear( Ouch. LJ came out in street clothes during intros, and sat rather gingerly on the bench after that.

The Storm came out in their green road uniforms for Go Green night. We used to always lose these games, but I think we've broken that curse over the past few seasons. Pre-tip the announcer explained the road greens, then also said that we were kicking off Pride Weekend, which got swelling cheers from the crowd, which was fun. Camille Little jumped up the ball for the opening tip, and the Storm controlled. We didn't score on our opening possession, but it wasn't long until L'Coe connected from the post.

The refs were sure calling it close early, though. In addition, they really seem to be calling a lot of off-the-ball action this year, which is frustrating for the fans and the players, I think. I'm not against it in principle, but in practice (e.g. the Tulsa-Seattle game in Tulsa), it makes the games really terrible, no-rhythm foul-shooting contests. It causes me to lean the other way and think things like: unless there's blood or a body-count, I don't want to hear about it. But the Storm like a precision offense, so it helps us that way. We also play a fairly physical defense, though, so it can also hurt us.

In this game we were helped early as Brunson picked up a couple of fairly quick fouls. Houston came in for her before we'd spent 4 minutes of game time, with the Storm jumping out to a quick little 8-4 lead. While we weren't hitting all of our shots, we were hitting enough, and our offense was being really deliberate and patient. Plus our defense was stifling the Lynx as effectively as we did at the end of the last game. The score remained fairly low due to the quality of the Lynx transition defense. We weren't getting many easy buckets. And I don't know what Brian Agler and Katie Smith were yelling about on the bench during the 1st time out, but Katie Smith plays a very "hot" game, meaning she's very demonstrative with her frustrations. I don't think it was endearing her to the refs. :D

Sue was our most consistent scorer here in the 1st part of the game. In the first 8 minutes she had 7 points and like 3 assists. And that's with the Lynx covering the pick and roll really well. She had matched the Lynx in scoring. ;D She didn't score at all in the 2nd half, I think, which confused me because the Lynx guards aren't known for their defensive prowess. Consequently, I thought that Sue would have eaten them for dinner. However, Sue was working extremely hard all game to keep our offense flowing. Extremely hard. And at this point, perhaps she needs to be getting everyone else going offensively. I mean, it worked for us, right? Early on here she got her first bucket off a completely broken Storm "play"/scramble for the loose ball, calmly sinking a 3. Charde Houston continues to be a "chucker" such that I was always pleased to see the ball in her hands because I knew that she would just shoot it. I like Charde fine, so I'm not trying to be mean, but it seemed in this game that she didn't pass the ball around, and the Lynx consequently didn't make the Storm defense have to work very hard if she touched it anywhere near the 3-point line on in. Perhaps those are Cheryl Reeve's instructions. But since her touch was off for this game, I was pleased every time I saw the ball in her hands.

With 2 minutes to go in the 1st quarter the Lynx were forced to call a timeout down 20-7, and we gave the Storm a standing ovation. 8-) Our defense looked great. Our offense looked serviceable, and the Lynx were missing shots that they were shooting with unconscious accuracy last game. We were totally limiting their transition, perhaps due to Brunson being benched with fouls. But Storm fans were loving it, feeling like it was a little bit sweet, sweet revenge for the 28-8 1st quarter back on 9 June. ;) The refs tried to kill any momentum the game had at this point with a succession of weird/off-the-ball calls. At one point LJ was having an intent conversation with Cameron Inouye on the sideline near the bench. Then Sue, Jenny Boucek and LJ put their heads together on the bench, with L'Coe sliding over to put in her two cents as well. Love to see Lauren involved, despite being unable to play right now.

Non sequitur: who is sweating all over the ball? Game play was stopped a couple of times for the refs to dry the ball off! :o

Towards the end of the quarter the crowd was really into it. Hornbuckle totally traveled, and you couldn't even hear the whistle because the fans reacted so loudly. "Oh!" The energy was great, and we were feeling good...then the Storm nearly allowed the Lynx to kill that going into the quarter break with a terrible turnover, leaving the Lynx with the last shot versus the Storm. Luckily the Lynx missed the last shot, and Sue popped up off the bench to tell Tanisha and the other players that they were fine. that everything was fine, and to let it go, or perhaps just don't let it happen again. ;) 1Q: 21-8, Storm

So far this young season, I have to say that Cheryl Reeves has been the most blatant coach at working the refs. They let her walk out and corner them. Multiple times Agler had to protest that she couldn't keep the game stopped just to talk to the refs. It wasn't as bad this game as last game, when our momentum was killed in order to review a 3-point shot from 3 minutes or so prior. That was possibly not her fault, though. I heard one person postulate that it was the first stop in game play since LJ's 3, and that it was all on the refs. So, OK.

After a pretty good scoring clip in the 1st quarter, scoring was sparse in the 2nd. Our defense can hold for a while, but if we don't also put the ball in the bucket, we start to lose our energy, both the team and the fans, and we start having defensive breakdowns as a result. By the time the Lynx had clawed their way back to make it 25-21, the fans were unhappy, and the Storm were forced to call a timeout and reassess. >:( :P We like defense, but offensive success is what fuels us, and it was looking terrible in this stretch. You start to get restless, grumbling noises directed at the team, not just the refs, and you can feel the dissatisfaction as a fan, so I wonder how if affects the team?

To inject some levity into the proceedings, we got our 3rd mini game of the season: "Shootin' the Shirt" with Katie Smith. :D OK, that got a chuckle out of me, but it was twice as funny because of the reaction of the players as they introduced the game on video on the Arenavision. Katie Smith opened by saying that because she's new to the team, she spends a lot of time "shooting the shirt with my teammates. " At this point LJ and Katie Smith burst out laughing and laughing. Anyway, the game is that they each take the t-shirt gun and shoot from around half court to some targets set up at the basket. Each got 3 shots. Katie managed to hit one of the targets. Lauren remarked at how powerful the gun was. Come on, Lauren. Don't tell me a country girl like you hasn't shot a few guns in her day! :D ;) Just kidding. LJ missed each of her shots, and Katie won.

Coming out of the game break L'Coe broke the Storm scoring drought with a put back, keeping a cushion at 27-23 and the crowd goes crazy. Seriuosly, it's like a power keg in there when multiple possessions go poorly...everyone just waiting for anything. A couple plays later, after playing awesome defense on Seimone Augustus Camille then runs down the court to receive a pass and score as the Storm continue the mini-run started by L'Coe, and the Lynx call a timeout. We really just start playing more aggressively on offense here. Camille and Swin especially finish out the half strong, and even though another dumb turnover at the end of the half once again killed some of our momentum. We could have been up by 14 or 15, but sadly we had to be content up 10. Half: 35-25, Storm

I want to take a moment to mention how hard Swin is working in the post and the paint. Relentless on the boards and the put backs, and solid on D. She's not invisible, but since her plays are often brutal pick ups off rebounds, etc., or creations of her own by slashing through multiple bodies on the wing, her contributions are sometimes not as noticeable as Camille Little's spinning post moves and L'Coe Willingham's sweet screen-slipping. However, she's really been working hard down low, particularly in the absence of her outside touch so far this season. We see you, Swin. ;)

The momentum-killing turnover was quickly forgotten as the Jet City Jumpers were our half-time entertainment!!! 8-) All right, I love the dogs. Clearly. But you'd have to hate dogs or fun not to like it. (It consists of two teams of dogs racing over jumps down the length of the court where they pick up a ball, then back; they're so happy and excited, and there's such a variety of dogs that it's super fun).

As far as team dynamics, I don't know what it means that only like 6 of them came out for shoot around out of the half, and that was with only 3 or 4 minutes left. But the others trickled out to play the game, anyway. ;) Tanisha seemed to spend a lot of the 1st half on the bench, but I'm unsure why. To start the 2nd half the Lynx were scoring much too easily. We finally scored only just over a minute in, but they'd hit a couple of quick ones too to narrow the gap. Then L'Coe came up lame. And after some additional play Sue was giving some sort of big speech to Tanisha out on the court. I don't think Tanisha's defense has been suffering this year, but it seems like she's still searching for her offensive awareness. Then after Sue talked to her, they approached the bench and Brian jumped in her other year. Poor Tanisha. In stereo! She appeared calm about it, though, nodding her head and trying to take it all in.

Maya Moore was largely a non-factor this game, but the two buckets I remember her scoring were both really memorable. It gives you a glimpse as to her potential, because she's not forcing anything, though she perhaps needs to assert herself a bit more. In this instance it was a really nice one-handed shot coming across the lane. And I guess T didn't pick up whatever Sue and Brian were trying to impart, because here about halfway through the quarter she got called to the bench, replaced by Katie Smith, and she did not seem happy about it (though knowing this team, she's just as likely frustrated with herself as annoyed with Coach for pulling her, or the refs). She grabbed her towel, and marched right to the very end of the bench, sitting there with really prickly body language.

Nothing was really getting going for us offensively, though. We had a lot of good ideas, and were getting players in the right positions, but our passes kept floating up too high, or going long, and we had a bunch of turnovers as a result. And some of it may have been due to subtle holding by the Lynx as well. Also, just how many steps does Lindsay Whalen get, refs? I know it's all the rage in the US, but overseas that would be called a travel. At least that's what I hear. ;)

Oh, well. Despite some miscues and offensive woes, we clung to a lead, even with the refs calling another foul on T when Augustus basically tripped over her own feet. ::) The quarter was half way over, and it was 41-37 and had been that way for a while. Or so it seemed. I mean, our defense was sticking strong, but that's not as useful if we're sucking as well. :P An Arob block of Whalen got us up and to our feet, but the Lynx tied it up anyway. But this was an even more important play than just this defensive stop. Arob also got a couple more blocks this game, but if you watched closely later in the game, despite having an open lane Whalen actually hesitated when she saw Ashley, and passed instead. Nice, Ashley. Way to put your mark on the game. 8-)

Katie Smith's shot was really off, though she hit some free throws. Honestly, we seemed to be having the most success when we attacked the basket and drew fouls, but I guess that's easier said than done. Right around here with 4 minutes or so to go in the quarter, I got the word that New York had approved gay marriage. 8-) That perked me up a little. But if Kurt Walker is going to call that foul on Katie Smith on one end, sending Brunson to the line, he needs to call the mugging of Camille Little at the other end. I'm just saying. The replay showed us just how bad the call was, but Brunson missed both anyway, and as Adia Barnes always says: the ball never lies. ;) The refs ended the quarter with a bunch of head-scratching calls (mostly because I couldn't see what was going on down on that end of the court), and the Lynx really outplayed us; we let them score 20! Arob came in and really brought the energy with her. And we were still clinging to a lead. Plus while we often have weak 3rd quarters, we usually finish games strong. Let's go, Storm! 3Q: 47-45, Storm

Tanisha, who had been really effective on defense, but not on offense really came out on fire in the 4th quarter! 8-) You go, Tanisha! She quickly put 5 Storm points up on the board, and Swin was really working it as well. In addition, Sue was clearly very involved in directing the team offense, like the three of them decided "enough is enough". :) Out of the ensuing Lynx timeout the fans were all on their feet and cheering...but unfortunately Augustus hit a jump shot. :P

Energy was up overall, though. This was the fourth quarter, after all. But the Storm fell into a kind of trap that we do without Lauren in the game, and Sue not looking for her shot because she's focusing so much on getting people to run the plays properly: who wants to take the shot? We had good ball movement, but sometimes it seemed like that's all we'd have: ball movement. We don't have our one superstar who we know we're going to get the ball to, so sometimes it's like no one wants to own it and step up and take the shot. This sapped some of our energy, but everyone got riled back up when Swin appeared to be mugged, but the jump ball with Whalen (who came in late) was called instead. ::) Then Tanisha was forced back to the bench on another BS call. Sigh.

But with around 4 minutes to go, any positive play was getting the fans to their feet, which is a fun energy to experience. Generally things were going our way, too. Camille had a nice &1 (missing the free throw, though she's usually clutch from the line) to put us up 11 and time was running out on the Lynx. They called a timeout. I've decided that Sue sprints to the bench (when timeouts are called when she's at the opposite end) in order to maximize the time she can sit and drink. She's seriously several lengths ahead of any of her teammates, and plops right down in her center seat on the bench, quickly swiveling to grab two cups. Out of the timeout "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses was playing, and Lauren was singing along on the bench. :) Gotta love it.

Maya Moore had a really nice tip in basket. But then she fouled out, accompanied by the arena friendly version of the Cee Lo song "Forget You". It also put the Lynx into the penalty, and Swin's free throws put us up by 13. At this point Cheryl Reeves seemed to concede and lined up four players at the scorer's table to sub in. Storm fans got to their feet, and with a minute left the Lynx finally got to check in. The announcer said, "Checking in for the Lynx...everybody", which got a lot of chuckles from the crowd, though I heard that the officials weren't amused. :D The Lynx made some pretty meaningless buckets to narrow the gap a touch, though I didn't like the Storm turnovers that led to them. "Another One Bites the Dust" began to play. 8-) Happy fans.

Our team defense did an awesome job of keeping Brunson above the free throw line most of the game. We boxed out hard, and though Augustus got some jump shots, for the most part we really shut the Lynx down. It was awesome to see. We completely dictated the tempo of this game, similar to how we owned Phoenix in the opening game, another team that loves to get out and run. I feel like a lot of the early success of the Lynx is due to not only their talent, but that teams are seeing these "new Lynx" for the first time. Kind of like when an unknown rookie comes in and blows a team out of the water, but disappears later in the game or season: because they get a chance to scout her. We got a chance to scout the Lynx in the first game. I really feel like we'll match up with them really well the rest of the season, though it will be a battle for sure.

Also, a note, there's some <uneducated> chatter about Sue Bird because she never really leads the league in assists. I defy anyone to actually watch a few Storm games (and I'm not talking crappy road games in Connecticut or New York where Sue may play a sub-par game) and then oversell the importance of Sue to this team, particularly on offense. In multiple ways that stats don't measure. I remain extremely impressed with her this season. It's just really something else to watch her play and orchestrate this game. She'll get this Storm instrument tuned. I feel like though we still have plenty of room for improvement this season, we're really on the right track.

Tanisha was the Microsoft Player of the Game. The gist of the interview: Dick Fain pointed out how she really played the role of hired gun on defense this game. She shut Maya Moore down, then when Augustus made a couple shots in the 3rd, they moved Tanisha over on her and she never really got going. Plus she really sparked us in the 4th. Was revenge a factor? They just wanted to come out with focus and effort, and to not get in an early hole. And hopefully they can "steal" some games away. She also hopes to see some fans on the road (they notice, road trippers).

Important Note: Brian Agler won his 200th game tonight. Way to go, Coach. 8-) That's a pretty remarkable milestone. He only currently ranks behind Van Chancellor, I believe, for numbers of wins.

  • Next give-away is July 9: Team Poster Night.
  • Everyone make sure you're voting for the All-Star Game starters: 
  • This year there's also a 2nd vote going on for Top 15 players in the WNBA in its history thus far. Several current Storm players are on the ballot of 30 names, deservedly so. Make sure (once they fix the technical difficulties you're supposed to be able to vote once a day...though right now it only lets you do so once) you vote for the Top 15: Http:// 
  • In addition to Carter Subaru planting a tree in the Mountains to Sound Greenway for every 3 pointer the Storm make this year (sparse so far this year :(), Safeco is donating $5 (up to $15K) per assist made to the Community Assist program, which is pretty cool. Particularly in this economy, and with so many services being cut, every little bit counts. 
  • Whatever happened to Doppler's anemometer? I miss it. His assistant made an appearance, though :)
  • The Team Shop Item of the Game was the LJ MVP photo for $5.99
  • The product-placement continues this season with a game break in the 2nd quarter surrounding the new USA show "Necessary Roughness", which premieres next week, I think. Anyway, during the game this was highlighted through the "Necessary Roughness Lucky Seat". The individual sitting in the lucky seat won an iPod touch, and their whole row won some USA network DVDs. Anyone here sitting in that row? What did these DVDs consist of?
  • Doppler Trivia: how many UConn alumni between the Storm and Lynx? 1, 2, 3 or 4? I hope that you answered 4: Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Charde Houston, Maya Moore
  • Between the 3rd and 4th quarters the Fans did the Shoot the Shirt mini game to pretty lack-luster results. They had to stand on the court and aim for a banner clear up at the ceiling in the corner above the fans. So the fans were happy, getting to catch 6 t-shirts. But none of the shots was close. Either the shooting fans have to move significantly closer to the targets, or they need to put targets on the court, then toss them to the crowd. The prize was a year of free car washes, so I guess they ended up splitting them?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

17 June 2011: Seattle Storm 68 - Indiana Fever 54

There's really no reason that I'm writing this Game Report so late. Well, I had a busy weekend and week, but that's hardly a real excuse. Here I am, trying to type this up and post it on the day of the next home game, trying not to get all back-logged, and wondering why there's nothing about this game that's inspiring me, apart from the memory of Sue Bird flying in like a free safety (in Dick Fain's words) to try intercepting a bad pass to Katie Douglas, sending Katie flying. That was an entertaining moment to me. And I love that we won, and that I finally got to bring my dad to a game on Father's and Daughter's night, which has been a goal for several seasons. But other than that? Given our performance in prior games, it just felt like a game that we would and should win. Our defense looked tons better, and our offense still suffered to an alarming degree.

I'm tired of teams coming in and choosing to go the "wrong" way, by which I mean they start their offense at their bench, rather than ours. It just feels odd. I haven't compiled stats for this over the years, and I doubt anything official exists, but I do know that several years ago we didn't have a positive record in these kinds of configurations...but that may have been due to defensively-strong teams coming in and stifling us in the second half, since it's generally those who are emphasizing defense that want to be playing defense by their bench at the ends of games. They may have their reasons, but I still don't like it.

It was fun to bring my parents and drag my youngest brother to a game. There were some technical difficulties early, showing my dad how to blow up the Thunder Sticks. Also, it remains very awkward to face the flag during the anthem. It was useful to have my dad there, because as a person who at one time contemplated a music major, I was able to converse with him about my concerns regarding the tempo of the opening video.

If you've read my Downpours over the years, you'll know that I have a bit of a pet peeve about playing songs that don't allow for good crowd interaction. (I also keep meaning to write a letter to the Storm about the more prevalent use of in-game cheer prompts that seem to exist only to make noise, rather than encouraging the fans to make noise, but that's a separate issue). Using a tempo app on Dad's smartphone, we determined that the optimum tempo for clapping seemed to be in the range of 120-140 beats per minute (bpm). The "Can Can" seemed to clock in at around 140 (if you measure it and I'm off, know that I'm just using approximate numbers), which is really the high end of what is comfortable for a crowd to maintain, but works in the short, specific circumstances that it's used for in the game production ("Everybody Clap Your Hands" is faster as well, as another example). "I Want to Take You Higher", that fondly-remembered intro song from 2004 is around 125 bpm. Just about perfect. The crowd can sustain higher, as stated, but it's more difficult. Any lower than 120, though, and the energy/noise of the clap has entirely dissipated by the time the next clap comes along. For another example, that "Thunderstruck" song is about 130 bpm. Anyway, being able to refer to non-subjective measures of these songs may help the Storm staff in the future. The new song to the intro video is about 85 bpm, and that just is not going to cut it, no matter how cool the graphics are. Post video they do pick up the tempo with 142 bpm as the players are introduced, so at least the energy comes back. Seems like we could do better, though. :-/

Oh, you're reading this Downpour for a basketball recap, not a discussion of musical theory? Silly me. Be sure to read my Run-off section for a discussion of the Flap Jackson mini game, the 2nd of several promised mini games (the first was the similarly hilarious Sue Bird Racing) featured this season. Whichever staffer was the inspiration behind this one deserves a big raise, or at least a hearty pat on the back. ;)

As is customary, Swin and Ify were shooting around when I got to my seats. Brian, Nancy and Jenny were all out there variously observing, shagging balls, etc. Katie Smith, Camille and Krystal Thomas were undergoing their stretching routines. Bobbit, Pohlen, Erin Phillips and Katie Douglas were also shooting around. When the players came out for formal shootaround I hoped that their initial funny mix-up wasn't indicative of how the game would go, with Sue getting to the corner where she's supposed to receive the ball in a pass, then go lay it in...but no pass was there. I guess she ran too fast. ;D But this was quickly remedied as her teammates in the other line caught up.

Laura Loge from Bellevue, a opera soprano performed the anthem. Opera is such a distinct sound that I'm always taken aback. Love how she hit the high-high note on free, though. Effortless.

Catchings was the only captain for Indiana signing the balls for the Junior Captains at center court. The refs were Scott Twardoski, Maj Forsberg, and Darryl Humphries. I'm not a fan. Scott always calls the post weird, particularly. But whatever. Also at this time the clean bill of health given both teams in the Virginia Mason Team Medicine Report got polite applause. I sensed that mostly the crowd was eager to rinse the taste of the last game from our mouths. There was an odd kind of nervous energy.

The Fever were introduced to the song "Night Fever" I believe? Despite my tempo obsession, I'm not a music expert, so someone may have to help me out there. The Bee Gees? This Game Report is probably overcome by events, but it's possible I'll get some feedback about that. :) Lin Dunn got really big cheers, though. 8-)

It was at this point that I first noticed A-Robs blue hair! :D It's pretty hysterical. My understanding is that it's in honor of the Mavs winning the WNBA title. Hey, if anyone can pull it off, Ashley can.

LJ won the tip and drove in for an immediate score. Multiple positive things in that statement. Whew: fans and bench sit down. And we came out really strong on defense, though initially Tammy Sutton-Brown was beating us on the boards. She went down hard a couple minutes in, but finally got up to polite crowd applause. Halfway through the quarter, up 12-6, our offense looked better, as far as spacing and picking our spots, even though we still weren't scoring at the clip we're used to (i.e. hitting our shots), but our defense looked worlds better. At this point one Fever pass sailed quite a bit above our bench; the announcer congratulated "Marisa" on her catch, so I'll assume she works for the Storm in some capacity, and add my congratulations. :) I believe she's a ball girl.

By the end of the quarter our offense was looking a touch stagnant, but we were maintaining our defensive intensity. But LJ did face-palm herself when she got called for a reach in foul at the top of the key as the Fever shot clock reached zero at one point. Bail out. I imagine Lin Dunn's historic, "Thank! Thank!" (it's hard to type accents). ;) Snell got a little bit of court time, but was yanked after a couple of lackluster/confused offensive possessions (not just on her part; the whole team looked a little stymied).

The Fever played for the last shot, but then turned the ball over. And Tanisha may still be playing pretty good defense this season, but her court vision seems to have suffered. Often she'll just keep the ball on offense, if she's running the break, or whatever. It reminds me of the days when I had an epiphany about how easy Sue makes running a fast break look, and how hard it actually is. Or looks like it is with T orchestrating the break. I'm sorry, but it's true. I've been a Tanisha advocate for years, ever since she filled in when Betty got a concussion, but I have to call them like I see them. So instead of see Swin wide open under the basket, she just kind of puts the blinders on and never thinks anything but "I'm taking it" as far as I can tell...and ends up getting called for an offensive foul. Sigh. 1Q: 15-10, Storm

She'll get there, though. I've been pondering the differences between this team now, and at the end of last season. One thing about our team was that we all knew our roles, and on top of that we trusted one another to fill those roles. Then the players go to other teams in the off-season. Often they play differently than they do in either the WNBA, or as members of the Storm. Then we came back together with injuries and other factors contributing to a slow start, and it seems like in this game we finally started to trust one another a bit, working as a team and with better spacing. But it's taking a little longer for players like Tanisha, for instance, to regain their mental rhythm with this team. She was big for us last year, though, so I know she'll get there.

Brian is working towards that as well. Sue remained on the bench for the first couple minutes of the 2nd quarter, allowing the team on the court to try working it out for themselves. Meanwhile, LJ looked much more spry in this game. Her energy on defense was outstanding, and she was getting touches nearly every offensive possession, it seemed, though she wasn't shooting as much still, and when she was she still wasn't floating them in as we've become accustomed to. She seemed unwilling to back down into the post as in the past, and towards the end of the game she seemed even less willing to take a beating down low, but she was still fleet of foot, and laying the hits on the opposition.

One of my favorite plays that I've noticed this season is one here early in the 2nd where LJ flashes to the basket from deep in the wing, the defense collapses on her, and another player follows her in for the easy pass and bucket. In this instance T followed her in and got the trailing bucket. It was really nice, and worth mentioning, because we're still waiting for our offense to really click this season.

After waiting a few minutes, Brian sent the rest of the starters in, then subbed ARob in for LJ (who got big cheers as she went to the bench; her efforts and energy were clear out there, despite the fact that we're still waiting for them to go off offensively). Really it's like the fans were looking for any incident to really cheer over. Of course we love defensive effort. I remember several years ago how excited we would get at forcing shot clock violations. But when we get no successful offense to go with it, it seems to suck all the energy out of the building. And really, while we won this game, it was like that all game, with the ultimate effect being a rather flat game.

Not that Indiana isn't known for defense. I mean, I guess there are reasons that offenses look discombobulated against the Fever, so perhaps it's not all team chemistry. Tammy Sutton-Brown was having a block party in Key Arena. Anyway, L'Coe came in too, and pretty much took over the 1st half of the quarter offensively, which was great to see. Halfway through the quarter Sue was called for a foul using her Sue-jitsu defense (much maligned, where she tries to poke the ball away once her player passes her), and that got the crowd hot, generating a chorus of boos. The Storm were in the penalty. <rolling eyes> But this was quickly followed by several make-up calls (or poor officiating; I mean: potato, tomato, you know?) and capping it off with the Fever entering the penalty, Swin pulled her little crafty jump-into-the-defender move, used so often by the likes of Diana Taurasi and Angel McCoughtry. Anyway, she faked Catchings into the foul and extended the Storm run. Then T was called for a crap foul, though she had been playing great defense on Katie Douglas all game. Recognizing this, Sue went right back to T on offense and suddenly we were up 31-18 prompting a Fever timeout as Brian Agler worked the refs.

Enter the 2nd mini game of the season: the Flap Jackson Flip. :D Love it. Lauren came on the screen and introduced the game holding up a pancake/flapjack and saying that they called them Flap Jacksons in her home country, then Snelly came on and chimed in saying that she loved her Flap Jacksons. <smile chime> Quite funny. So Swin and Sue joined Lauren on the video to help demonstrate, each wearing flippers on their feet. The object was to put a flapjack on the end of a flipper, then flip it up into the air and into a hoop/bucket. As soon as the whistle blew Sue went to work, getting like 4 into the bucket right away. She so competitive, it's just highly entertaining to watch her get all focused and intent no matter the game. Meanwhile, Swin was having trouble even getting a flapjack near her hoop. They were flying every which way, prompting a laughing Lauren to protest her ineffectiveness, "Swin!" But Swin finally caught on to the technique and started to improve her accuracy. They counted Swin's first: 4. Then they just started pulling Sue's out of her goal, 4...5..6. At one point Sue grabbed one and bit it, to the crowd's delight. I mean it was clear that she won. She ended up with 10. I venture to say this was the most entertaining part of this game. :D Later on some dad and daughter teams competed on the court. See the Run-off for descriptions of this.

Back into the game I realized that each team was 0-8 from 3. It was really a fairly miserable display of outside shooting. But our defense continued to stifle the Fever. LJ poked the ball away and Swin was ahead of the pack on the Fast Break...and Tammy Sutton-Brown caught up for what looked to me like a clean block. Amazingly. I did not think anyone would be able to catch Swin. Of course the Keystone Refs called a foul. Oh, well, maybe she caught some body.

LJ hadn't touched it for a while, and I wondered if this was the cause of our offensive troubles. But you have to love the effort. Sue attempted at this point to intercept the bad pass to Katie Douglas near mid court. Really, Sue just saw the ball and went for it, but it was so far behind Douglas that she had to stop and come back for it and Sue's momentum knocked Katie flying. Sue was like a free safety out there (Dick Fain's description). Anyway, the refs called the foul on Sue, since she missed the ball, and Sue helped Katie up. It looked like we'd go into the half with a whimper, but Sue took the pass and dribbled in traffic down the court, putting up a leaning, sideways, off-balance 3 among the defense at the buzzer...and this one goes in! The crowd goes wild! The Storm players and coaches were laughing and congratulating Sue, and Sue smiled and hung her tongue out, acknowledging the ridiculousness of the shot. We couldn't hit a normal 3 pointer all half. I guess we were just mistakenly taking the easy ones. <rolling eyes> Half: 37-19, Storm

38% shooting isn't going to get it done. It's better than the 20% of the Fever, but then again, it's not only our defense holding them down. Hopefully they don't get hot in the 2nd half. The refs have been making a lot of calls this game, though it's fairly evenly distributed. Is this a point of emphasis this season? Because we're here to watch basketball, not a foul-shooting contest. :-/ My little brother was playing a personal drinking game where he took a sip every time the whistle blew. :D He was still ambulatory, though.

T got us started in the 2nd half with an &1, doubling us up on Indiana, 40-19. She's been really Jekyll-Hyde this year, but she's still there competing, and making timely plays as much as she's making bone-headed plays. And she hasn't cost us a game yet, so go, Tanisha! ;) The Fever kind of turned it up, though, after that, beating us out for rebounds, and our offense looked stymied. On top of that, they were getting some easy buckets. Our 3s were still not there, though they were reasonable shots. LJ in particular looked frustrated, and she and Sue had a talk prior to the timeout. Then Katie Smith was giving Lauren a pep talk as well. I get the impression with the way the crowd is poised that they're all pulling for her as well. It's almost like with Ashley: anything positive for LJ and we go crazy. The difference is perhaps that we expect LJ to do positive things, but I think it's also clear that she's hurting. You can do it, LJ!

One player I've consistently enjoyed watching this year is Sue Bird. She seems not to have lost her step from last year. Perhaps because she competed in a tougher league overseas? Just because she knows her role, and is completely comfortable with her coach and his system? Empowerment? Whatever the reason, I thought that Sue in this game had a very good feel for when she should call her own number on offense and go for the score. She put her head down (or really, kept it up) and we went to work and about halfway through the 3rd we were suddenly up by over 20. 8-) Her sister in arms, Lauren Jackson, may not have had her shot, but she was really crashing the boards and maintaining great defensive intensity, anchoring our efforts there in the paint. And when she finally hit a 3 pointer the crowd got so happy and loud, followed by a timely steal to usher in the end of the quarter by Katie Smith, ahead to Swin for an &1 that got us back to our feet. :) 3Q: 58-33, Storm

A mix of starters and bench, including A-rob to start the 4th. Arob went to the line right away, and made both her free throws! She was shooting them more confidently than I've ever seen! <shocked face> The Fever were getting frustrated, and after Ashley laid a hard foul on Davenport and the play was over, Davenport got T'ed up for blatantly shoulder-checking A-rob. :D LJ made the technical free throw, but sits for some rest soon after this. She was clearly flagging late, particularly on offense where she rarely ventured into the deep post. Sue Bird, on the other hand...where does she get her energy? Again, whenever a timeout is called away from the bench, she basically sprints to the bench, sits down, and grabs two cups of whatever drink they're serving (the logo says Gatorade, but who knows?). Perhaps she's just being efficient, but it always does my heart good to see her moving so quickly when everyone else is walking towards the bench, particularly after watching her work so hard. Hey, Storm fans know how much she means to this team. Particularly with LJ on the fritz.

So, our defense looked good. Our offense did not. As a Storm fan I was really happy with our efforts, but still worried about our complete lack of shooting touch. It's a good thing we had all those bricks to build a defensive wall. I hope we figure it out soon. Down by nearly 20 with 3 minutes to go, Indiana called a timeout and basically conceded by subbing starters out. Brian kept our starters in for quite a few more reps. Practice? Trying to find that shooting rhythm?

Meanwhile, the refs clearly decided they wanted to make a final statement, blowing whistles on pretty much every possession. Katie Smith banked in a ridiculous shot as the shot clock wound down. The refs started to close the 5-1 foul discrepancy that put the Storm in the penalty, and LJ went to the line. Snell and Ify came in to cheers and Snelly hit a 3! Another game highlight. Cool.

Brian finally subbed LJ out during our final timeout, and I don't know what happened there at the end of the game, but she was really hot about something. During the timeout she was talking intently and constantly to L'Coe. Then she grabbed Swin and pulled her to the end of the bench to talk some more, and when Sue and L'Coe came to the bench L'Coe started talking to Sue. It's amusing to try to divine these team dynamics, but if they were trying to discuss their performance and get better, or if they were planning the after party, it's nice to see them continually talking. ;)

They've been playing "Celebrate Good Times" at the end of games/wins lately at Key Arena, and I want to say that I miss "Another One Bites the Dust".

L'Coe was named the player of the game, and gave a really good interview, I thought, though I wasn't able to record everything. She acknowledged that it was really tough and physical in the post, and thanked the Storm fans for coming out again and supporting them. She said that it felt so good to be on the court again after 8 days of Defense with Brian Agler, but also said that during that 8 days the Team got better, and they they strive to do so every day.

Another note: why is T stopping and popping so much lately? I thought her game was crazy drives to the basket. Sue's got the stop-pops covered. ;) (just kidding: love ya, T; don't over-think it)


  • The Community Spotlight was for Wellspring Family Services ( "kids helping kids". They say they're taking on the root causes of homelessness and instability for children, adults, and families in King County. Seems like a worthy cause. Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew formerly of The Presidents of the United States of America) was featured in their ad on the Arenavision. Something to do with donating, and him writing a song. I have a friend who loves him, so I had to include that detail.
  • Between the 1st and 2nd quarters the Storm Dance Troupe performed, but they had their dads with them. It was pretty cute and amusing. The dads danced with varying levels of proficiency, but were all good sports. One guy even executed a somersault!
  • During a bit about the Carter Subaru drive to plant trees in the "Mountains to Sound Greenway" they actually described what the MTSG was, which I appreciated. I always knew that it was over the Snoqualmie Pass, but not really what it encompassed.
  • Nick Collison (with his daughter Eva) was at the game and introduced to applause.
  • Pre-game and at Half Time we were entertained by the Eastside Dream Elite dancers and cheer squad. They were pretty energetic and fun. I often wonder what it would be like as a young kid to perform in such a big venue, but I'm sure it's not an isolated incident.
  • During halftime LJ gave us a Group Health health tip up on the Arenavision: don't super size, substitute fresh fruit for fries if you can--little choices make a big difference. :) She was rather adorably earnest in her delivery. I'm sorry, it's true. ;) Cute is the proper word for it.
  • Army t-shirts dropped by parachute during game break. I think this is kind of an amusing bit, though I'm not anti-military, really. I can see how it could be a sensitive subject, though. And I still miss "Flight of the Valkyries", even though there is some political touchiness there also. What can you do?
  • Between the 3rd and 4th Quarters the Dad-Daughter teams took the floor for their attempts at the Flap Jackson Flip, for a Family 4-Pack of Regal Cinemas movie tickets. A note here about our sponsors: I've noticed a ton more "product placement" type contests this year, and also in our little Arenavision bits. I can't complain about this at all. Clearly our marketing department has been working really hard, and it can only help the team remain/become solvent. But back to the contest: the daughters were wearing the "hoops" on their heads and the dads were flipping the flap-jacksons. The team closest to me won, but they would have had at least a handful more if the daughter hadn't kept bending her knees and lowering the hoop. Of course, they weren't wearing face guards or anything, so I'm sure it's instinct. Who would want a cold pancake in the face? ;) Anyway, team Charlotte won.

Friday, June 10, 2011

9 June 2011: Seattle Storm 74 - Minnesota Lynx 81

I have to say, despite the terrible 1st quarter, I had a lot of fun at this game. We dug such a big hole early, that for me it was almost nostalgic, hearkening back to the days when Sue Bird was merely a Rookie, before LJ had earned multiple MVP awards with her devastating efficiency and consistency. When the Storm might not even post a winning record all season, and fans cheered each and every positive possession like it would be their last. None of this chatter about being bored or devoid of anxiety going to Key Arena because Seattle always wins. No expectations beyond playing extremely hard and competing. If you can ride through the terrible times and still come out cheering the team in the end, you know what it is to be a Storm fan. And I think this game helped remind me of that a little bit.

It puzzles me that there is some chatter from Swin about the crowd being flat and dragging their energy down, or at least not giving them a boost. It seems like Jayda picked up on this too, referencing it in both her game blog ( and her article in the Times ( Were we attending the same game? I haven't listened to the radio broadcast yet to see if Dick and Adia agree about the fans, though I don't think they do, since I know Adia, at least, was tweeting about how much she loves Storm fans. We stood and cheered for 7 minutes in the 1st quarter, waiting for them to score. The longer it took, the harder we would cheer in encouragement on both offense and defense, trying to will them not to give up, and to gain some life, have energy in their legs.

I'll put most of my other pre-game observations down in my Run-off. We stood up for the beginning of the game as is customary, they unveiled the new intro that was pretty cool video-wise, but crap for clapping along with...the cadence is Way Too Slooooooowww, like half-speed. The clapping kind of all died out here. So this is how it's going to be? Because it's a consistent complaint, but the media-folks don't seem to understand what we're saying, so now we basically all stand around and watch a cool video, then get riled up afterwards when they play music we can keep a beat with. I'll have to figure out the tempo that's ideal and post that. ::) But, hey, it matched the way the Storm came out of the gate, so perhaps it's even more appropriate than I know (or knew at the time ;)). We don't want that to be true in the future, though...
I guess our intensity in the first quarter also matched our shoot around, in which we seemed very relaxed. It was fun to watch the team all loose and happy, though, and loose isn't necessarily a bad thing. They were dancing and singing to the music while they ran their drills and shot the ball. Well, that was mostly L'Coe dancing. Sue was mouthing along with all the words. And LJ got into that at another point. I'm sure a couple of the other players did a line or two, in fact Swin and Ify both got involved at some point, I think when Jamie Foxx's "Winner" was playing (I'm not the best at identifying songs, though) but Sue was doing the whole song for a few previous. She loves her hip-hop. :)

And to continue the trend: if our energy had matched that of the Evergreen Heights Elementary Choir singing the anthem--hey, they may have gotten quieter on the "rockets red glare" phrase, but they brought it home with "free" towards the end--we wouldn't have gotten down by 30. ;) The choir was super cute. Many a player was smiling after their rendition. Fans happy. Players happy...then the tip went up and from the very beginning the Lynx set the tone. It seemed we would control the tip, but through sheer effort and hustle Maya Moore managed to gain control, and because we were going the opposite way from normal, it was almost surprising that she was at her bucket (since that's usually ours at the beginning) and she was able to lay it right in for the first Lynx points of the game. All right. Shake it off. I have written in my notes, "Crowd energetic."

But the Storm were not. We missed, and missed. Fans are thinking, ok, some rust from being off for a week. Some jitters. Settle down and we'll be all right. These shots are good, and they'll start falling. Didn't stop the Lynx from jetting out to a 6-0 lead, though, in a matter of seconds. Barely more than a minute had passed, in fact, and the Storm were calling a time out. Ok. That's ok. We're still on our feet, but it's only been a couple minutes...something we continued to cling to a couple more minutes later down 0-12 with Brian signaling another time out, and me thinking, "My feet are tired." Were the Storm feet tired too? Because that would be one explanation for their inability to play transition defense. ;)

Storm fans were definitely restless during this timeout, and we were getting a lot more anxious about the game. It wasn't quiet, but the noise was very unfocused, like 3000 different conversations going on at once. "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys blared out over the speakers over this time out, and I couldn't help but think it appropriate. Who was this team on the floor, and what had they done with our team? The Lynx came out so physical. Bumping us, not letting us get to our spots, and in return we were letting them either waltz to the basket, or more commonly pull up for nearly uncontested jumper after jumper. They were getting great elevation on their jump shots, and we were looking lackluster and sloppy on offense, while playing tissue paper defense. Did we try to learn some new schemes during practice this week? Were we confused? Sue seemed to have to do an uncommonly large amount of talking a directing traffic, though mostly after the Lynx had scored again and everyone was wondering how.

Even this early in the game, I was thinking back to the Sky game last year, and letting all of my expectations go for how this game would turn out. I wasn't giving up (please, it was just the 1st quarter), but it was clear that we were not prepared for the energy our opponent was bringing. I thought that it was a shame that it had to happen at home this year, but meanwhile I was really curious to see how the Storm would respond. I mean, at this point the Lynx had to be shooting above 90%, and we were shooting 0%. Everything they threw up was going in. I hope the first part of this game isn't lost forever (as of this writing it hasn't made it to Live Access due to reported technical difficulties), because it would be fun for Lynx fans to watch.

When we went down 0-13 a couple minutes later, Brian brought L'Coe and Katie Smith in. And to their credit: all the fans were still standing, waiting for that first bucket. And it was a Lauren Jackson turnaround jumper at 2:57 to pull us within 20, 2-22! Take a look at that time and score. :o Not a mis-print. Embarrassing. :-[ Still, we finally got to sit down, but by this time I was almost taking as much if not more pleasure in watching the smooth offensive moves of the Lynx, as watching the Storm fumble around and try to figure out their issues on the fly. I mean: multiple alley-oops. Accurate jumpers. Scrappy defense. Assists. Strong lay-ups. Watching Maya Moore alone was quite mesmerizing. I love the extension she gets on her shots, and how quickly her long strides eat up ground. I mean, I'm a fan of the game as well as the Storm. Clearly I didn't want the Storm to lose, but meanwhile, I figured I might as well enjoy something. Consequently, I was fairly bitter (though I still cheered because that's what a Storm fan does) when she picked up a pretty weak foul and got benched. And speaking of benched: Brian yanked Sue and Lauren (though it may not have been for punishment; sometimes you have to watch from the bench for a couple minutes to get a better perspective on what's going on on the court). 1Q: 8-28

So the Lynx just came out better, faster stronger, more physical, but apart from that everything they threw up there was going in. I don't expect I'll see such a shooting display again this season from any team. It was truly something to behold. Inside. Outside. Mostly pull-ups with terrific elevation, but also three-pointers and lay-ins. It's been so long since I've seen Brunson play with such healthy knees. It so nice to see her fulfilling a potential that we've often had only glimpses of in previous years. And Maya Moore is as good as advertised. We don't get that much these days.

Sue and Lauren remained on the bench to start the 2nd. And Ashley Robinson was bringing a ton of energy on offense and defense. The Storm went on a mini-run to force a Lynx timeout, with stiffer defense that even nearly forced a shot clock violation as the Lynx shooting percentage started to come back down to earth on the backs of a lot of their bench players. So their starters came back in. Meanwhile, despite some signs of life, our shooting woes continued: Katie Smith missed both of her free throws (and we didn't shoot that many this game), though A-rob really battled for and successfully grabbed the rebound. 8-)

The crowd was doing what they could. Typical of Storm fans, particularly if the Storm have several poor plays in a row, the crowd starts to get into it on about every other play. We cheer hard to encourage them, thinking this is the play that will turn around the momentum. If the play is successful (either offensive or defensive), the place goes crazy. If it's unsuccessful, we get knocked back a little bit and have to catch our breath. But all of this is going on in waves regardless of what types of prompts the game operations folks are playing. It involves a lot of noise, rather than chanting or clapping in unison, but it's fun to see if we can make a difference. It's tough when the team doesn't seem to respond. But the 2nd quarter was much better overall for all our psyches, even though we didn't make any inroads score-wise, we at least somewhat staunched the arterial spurt that was the first quarter.

This second quarter is where I actually had to sit back and just marvel at the artistry of how the Lynx offense was working. Multiple alley-oops. Sweet moves. But the refs always have to put their stamp on things. I don't know if it's good or bad that I could identify all three by first and last name before they even took off their jackets to display their numbers: Penny Davis, Roy Gulbeyan and Cameron Inouye. They seemed content to let a lot of contact go in the 1st (sure, while the Lynx were gaining a lead), but tightened things up in the 2nd. Sadly, Maya got her 3rd foul right after a beautiful move to the basket. We cheered, but it was kind of a shame.

Brian decided to put Sue and Lauren back in before half the quarter was gone. And when she saw court time Sue seemed to be trying to shoot her way into the game, since no one was capitalizing on her aborted assists (given that the shot on the other end wasn't made). Even when we were scoring it was often painful to watch, because it turned into an isolation play or something where our player just ended up making a good move, versus Storm Basketball, which is characterized as of late by crisp ball movement to open up a good shot. Why can't we score? Why does LJ look lost? With 30 seconds to go in the half Sue finally hit a shot! :) Hey, it kept us within 26. ;) HT: 24-50

A slightly stunned crowd cleared out at half-time to get concessions, or sat in their seats dumbfounded. I agree that the energy was down at that point. Hope wasn't gone, but the 1st half was emotionally draining! Trying to cheer the Storm to victory. Being disappointed repeatedly. The hardy old-time Storm fan remembers those days of regular blow-outs. Of going crazy every time Simone Edwards made a shot or got a rebound. Of getting to your feet if two made shots bracketed a defensive stop. Aw, memories. Not always happy nostalgia, but I think that Storm fans were getting kind of complacent. I think having this game at home also makes the fans wake up a little and appreciate more what we have, in my opinion. At least it did for me. :) So, the Laurelhurst Unicycle and Juggling Team performed in front of a largely shell-shocked crowd. I hope someone was able to take comfort in the skills those kids possess that I never will. ;)

The fact that we ended the half shooting 28% overall and 12.5% from 3 tells you just how awful that first quarter was. :P :-[ :-/ Probably there aren't enough emoticons in the world to express the dismay those numbers engender. Can you really spot a good team (which the Lynx have been in the past, and had been flirting with in the last couple of seasons, if only the injury bug hadn't bitten them) 26 points, then hope to win? Honestly, I was thinking at this point that if we only lost by single digits, I'd count it something of a moral victory. But the thing with the Lynx is that their play felt very cohesive. Unlike with Phoenix, where it seems like they start becoming individuals rather than a team under pressure, the Lynx felt like they had really strong on-court chemistry. With that, and without a pace similar to the Mercury, would it be possible to come back down 30? Clearly our Western Conference Championship rally was on my mind, but it was the most recent hole we'd hauled ourselves out of.

It took us a bit of an uncomfortably long time to score in the 2nd half, particularly considering the amount of ground we had to make up. 3 minutes in Sue finally got us on the board for the quarter, and we'd done a decent job of controlling the Lynx, though LJ was back on the bench. The crowd felt re-energized at this point. Sue's pulled our fat from the fire so often in the past, that you can't help but have faith in her, and she was the one hitting all of our shots. And though Sue was focused out there, she was loose too. She and Whalen were laughing together after Sue fouled Whalen. We were halfway through the quarter and hadn't really made up any ground, and I wrote, "It's a shame this had to happen at home." But I really feel like we need to experience this once in a while to remind ourselves of that feeling we don't want to re-experience.
Still, we kept plugging away. With 3 minutes to go there was a mad scramble for the ball as we tipped it away from the Lynx, and we came up with it and called a time out. You think we'd hit a game-winning shot or something. ;D Then Swin finally hit a 3 and it felt like we were on the verge of something. Sadly, T got completely faked into the air, and was rather lackadaisical on her recovery, sucking the air back out of the crowd. Steal at the buzzer with no pay-off, besides getting to watch Sue chuck it from mid-court. ;) 3Q: 39-60

Sue kept going to work, but the Lynx kept finding ways to score on the other end. It was like 2002. But the crowd kept getting excited with each shot. We don't need much. Any mini-run will do. Something to take away from our 1st-half suffering. A few minutes in I finally saw a Storm play that employed ball movement to good effect, and suddenly we were within 17! Cheering and carrying on. :D Less than a minute later LJ hit a 3, and suddenly the energy in the Arena changed to where we thought we could win, only down 16 with nearly 7 minutes to go. The crowd started getting to its feet at anything positive we did, and got really chippy with the refs (who may not have necessarily made bad calls, but from now until the end of the game the timing of the calls repeatedly killed most of the Storm momentum) and probably would have remained so for the rest of the game if we'd been able to get any defensive stops.

As it was, I don't think I sat down from Swin's &1 with 5 minutes to go (to got us within 14) to the end of the game. 8-) It was very exciting, with every fan trying to cheer every bit of energy into the Storm that we could. We scored again to cut it to 12 and the Lynx were forced to call a timeout. The fans smelled blood in the water. The Lynx starters had been back in for a while, but seemed shaky. Over the music on the Storm side of the Arena (I heard it first around Section 106) a group of fans started chanting, "Let's go, Storm!" It spread around the arena like a wildfire (apologies, Arizona) as each fan yelled in unison at the top of our lungs. The music went off and it was all Storm fans. "Let's go, Storm!" reverberating from the rafters. It felt like they couldn't stop us and I got chills as we kept it up all timeout, letting it slowly die out as the players took the floor. It's been a while since we needed to dredge up the passion to home grow our own cheers, and it's one of my favorite things about Key Arena, that things like this can happen.

Frustratingly, in one of the most ridiculous moves all night, no game play resumed as we stopped our cheering and the music was turned back on. Refs? Hello? Four minutes to go and we can do this. Um, are you listening? It was maddening. Then the announcer let us know that the refs were reviewing an the LJ 3 from [i]back at the 6:50 mark[/i] to determine if it was really a 3-pointer. Really? Is this some BS gamesmanship from the Lynx? Or something the refs concocted on their own? Anyway, the call stood, and the crowd cheered. But some of our energy was gone. So if this was due to the Lynx requesting a review, then well-played. But if this was the refs, then you're a bunch of dill weeds, and now Penny and Cameron have marks in my book as dark as Roy's for almost hitting Sue in the broken nose. :D

Sadly, we couldn't efficiently decrease the lead quickly enough. With 2 minutes to go we were still down by 12 with only a ghost of a chance. If Sue can't hit her 3s, and LJ is missing point-blank put-backs, then we can't win. :( We did have an exciting jump ball, and Swin hit a 3, but the Lynx pretty much decided to take Shot Clock Violations the rest of the way, and though they missed a few free throws at the beginning of the end, and Sue hit a couple more shots, and LJ finally hit another turnaround, it just wasn't enough. Sue missed at the buzzer to cap off a fantastic quarter, and a gutsy effort from our All-Star point guard, but also to appropriately bookend a night when our shooting just wasn't up to our usual standards, even if the stats do look reasonable at the end.

So, did the Lynx run out of gas after the starters logged heavy minutes, having played 4 games in 7 days, including several on the road? Or did we legitimately figure things out. Also, who yelled, "You suck, Whalen!" during free throws at the end? That isn't right. I dislike personal attacks on the players. You can mock them for their play, taunt them with their name (which is a personal favorite of mine), but saying Whalen sucks when she clearly doesn't and her team is beating us besides? That's just sad. Poor form, even if she does suck.

So is this season's schedule some sort of conspiracy in order to take the Champs down? I mean: think about it. Another week off in between games, and in the interim other teams like the Lynx are playing games and gelling. Then at the end of the season we have a brutal schedule, tiring us out for the play-offs. It'll be a challenge to be sure.
And finally, on her chat today at the ESPN website ( Lauren mentioned that she and Sue went to breakfast this morning to discuss things. LJ avows that she is not injured, that she feels good physically. That's a relief in one way, but in another a nagging physical issue would probably be easier to understand. Are we trying to implement some new schemes? I remember we tried that at the beginning of 2005 to disastrous results for LJ. She's said before how she has a steep learning curve about things like that. Is she still searching for her pre-injury basketball rhythm? I believe that she can work things out. I mean, come on, this is Lauren Jackson. Enough said. But I hope she does it soon. Just a few more shots going our way last night and we'd have pulled off a crazy come-back. So do some soul-searching, Lauren. You know we need you to be a beast! ;)

P.S. I thought the crowd was fantastic last night, Jayda (and Swin). I was proud to be a Storm fan at the end of that game, despite the sad loss. Hardly anyone left, and we cheered our little hearts out. :)


  • There's more new gear in the Team Shop. This year they have black fleece sweat pants with an embroidered logo, in contrast to the gray ones from last year with Storm printed down the leg. They also have a new yellow car flag, which looked pretty cool if you have a car and are in to that type of thing. Haven't seen any more Doppler dolls, though.
  •  Pre-game the US Army, celebrating their 236th birthday, swore in about 10 new recruits. At first those of us chatting didn't know what was going on, but I thought it was pretty cool. 
  • I mentioned that there are some new concessions this year. I visited the taco/quesadilla place over by the beer counter, had a chicken quesadilla, and found it to be a cut above previous Key Arena fare, complete with a pretty good salsa bar (and self-serve squeeze bottles of sour cream). Hopefully it's not all that cheese and dairy I ate that were weighing down the Storm in the first quarter. ;)
  • By the time I got into the Arena, only a few Stormies remained. T, Krystal Thomas and Camille were being stretched out, as well as some Lynx (my view was partially obstructed, but I did notice Charde Houston). Swin and Ify were diligently shooting around, with Nancy Darsch and Jenny Boucek assisting.
  • The "Item of the Game" was the replica jerseys. They were making a big deal about it, and I can't help but think they were blatantly glossing over the fact that they put the "ug" in UGLY, if you're looking for a jersey. As general game wear, they aren't bad. But in no way do they look jersey-like, and to keep insisting that they do just makes me angry. ;) The design is terrible, including a cut that made Shelley Hart look like Ming the Merciless with points at her shoulders. Convince me I'm wrong.
  • The Lynx came out while our introductions were starting...once the music started. That's a pet peeve of mine. Plus they made us start the "wrong" way.
  • It was exciting to see Snell dressed for the game, though she had no playing time. Katie Smith's leg was taped/wrapped from her ankle to eternity. Hopefully that helps.
  • The pre-game non-profit spot-lighted was the Women Sports Foundation, which promotes active lifestyles for kids (and adults, I'd assume, but I think their focus is kids).
  • There was also a pre-game shout out to a specific Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure team of breast cancer survivors that raised over $10,000, along with a little girl who raised $4,000 all by herself, if I heard the announcer correctly. Pretty impressive. 8-)
  • Brunson and Whalen were the Lynx Captains at Center Court for Honorary Captains, joining Sue and Lauren to sign and hand basketballs to these cute, cute little girls with long hair (names withheld to protect the innocent).
  • The fact that the Virginia Mason Team Medicine Report showed no injuries for the Storm did not help us. 
  • The Lynx were introduced accompanied by the song "What's New, Pussycat?", I believe. Tom Jones or Burt Bacharach? Or am I completely off? Perhaps a fellow Storm fan from the game can answer this. It's a tradition for when the Lynx visit. Maya Moore got quite a bit of applause. Taj got respectful cheers. And Whalen was really well-received as well.
  • It still throws me off for a split second to hear Lauren introduced as a 6'6" forward from Australia. ;D
  • I was entertained by "Doppler's Assistant" last year; did he go somewhere, or have I just not noticed him yet this year?
  • The Alaska Airlines Seat Upgrade was weird and almost uncomfortable, as two guys came down, and Shelley Hart only engaged the 1st guy, Jim, then asked if [i]he was alone[/i], and never even talked to the other guy like he was invisible. This was especially uncomfortable because the 2nd guy was black. I'm just saying. Did no one else think this? Am I crazy? It was so bizarre. He even seemed to reach for the microphone at the end as Shelley was leading Jim in leading us in the "Go, Storm!" cheer. Mostly the two guys just laughed about it, though.
  • Looking at some of the older kids in the Storm Dance Troupe made me miss the Hip Hop Squad or whatever from several seasons ago. I think they would have caught on if they were introduced differently. There was initially back-lash because I think people were worried that the kids would go away, but since then shows like So You Think You Can Dance have gained popularity. Doing some short routines like that would be an awesome addition to the game experience, in my opinion. Keep it lively.
  • They showed a fun video summarizing the Stormin' the Lake event. It made me miss the sun. It also captured pretty much every memorable moment that I described. I'm sure they'll put it up on YouTube or something, so you should check it out. :)
  • Doppler Bowling was back. The winner got an Xbox 360 + Kinect and 2 games, which is a pretty sweet deal. I was speaking to someone in line at the doors today who won the Fan Dance last time. I'd thought they just got a Kinect, but they actually got the whole system! Score. 8-)
  • Brock Huard and Walter Jones were at the game, their introductions (particularly Walter) giving us something to really cheer about, creating a kind of contrast with the rest. At one point Brock was tossing a football around with Doppler. Doppler made a pretty good catch, but his throwing arm wasn't quite there and the ball dropped short of the former UW QB.
  • In keeping with her support of the Susan G. Komen foundation, and helping us all maintain perspective by remembering that there are bigger things in the world than basketball games, an endorsement video from Swin was played on the Arenavision during one game break. It said that a grant from the Susan G. Komen foundation has touched every major breast cancer treatment advance in something like the past 29 years. That is impressive.
  • The Army did their Army t-shirt parachute drop. When did they stop using Flight of the Valkeries? I know there was some small controversy about using that piece, but I always thought it was fun. Perhaps I'm not sensitive enough? ;) The Army/military music from the recruiting commercials was playing instead. Which is fine.
  • The 1st Movie Magic of the season featured Brian Agler intoning, "Bueller, Bueller, Bueller..." So that was pretty funny. And they winner got a Blue Ray Player and "The Fighter" on DVD, as we were all exhorted to vote for Mark Wahlberg for the Guy's Choice awards for Spike TV. I don't mind the in-arena endorsements if they can keep giving such cool prizes away. 8-)